Improvement of Fusel Alcohol Production by Engineering of the Yeast Branched-Chain Amino Acid Aminotransaminase.Appl Environ Microbiol. 2022 07 12; 88(13):e0055722.AE
Branched-chain higher alcohols (BCHAs), or fusel alcohols, including isobutanol, isoamyl alcohol, and active amyl alcohol, are useful compounds in several industries. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae can synthesize these compounds via the metabolic pathways of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Branched-chain amino acid aminotransaminases (BCATs) are the key enzymes for BCHA production via the Ehrlich pathway of BCAAs. BCATs catalyze a bidirectional transamination reaction between branched-chain α-keto acids (BCKAs) and BCAAs. In S. cerevisiae, there are two BCAT isoforms, Bat1 and Bat2, which are encoded by the genes BAT1 and BAT2. Although many studies have shown the effects of deletion or overexpression of BAT1 and BAT2 on BCHA production, there have been no reports on the enhancement of BCHA production by functional variants of BCATs. Here, to improve BCHA productivity, we designed variants of Bat1 and Bat2 with altered enzyme activity by using in silico computational analysis: the Gly333Ser and Gly333Trp Bat1 and corresponding Gly316Ser and Gly316Trp Bat2 variants, respectively. When expressed in S. cerevisiae cells, most of these variants caused a growth defect in minimal medium. Interestingly, the Gly333Trp Bat1 and Gly316Ser Bat2 variants achieved 18.7-fold and 17.4-fold increases in isobutanol above that for the wild-type enzyme, respectively. The enzyme assay revealed that the catalytic activities of all four BCAT variants were lower than that of the wild-type enzyme. Our results indicate that the decreased BCAT activity enhanced BCHA production by reducing BCAA biosynthesis, which occurs via a pathway that directly competes with BCHA production. IMPORTANCE Recently, several studies have attempted to increase the production of branched-chain higher alcohols (BCHAs) in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The key enzymes for BCHA biosynthesis in S. cerevisiae are the branched-chain amino acid aminotransaminases (BCATs) Bat1 and Bat2. Deletion or overexpression of the genes encoding BCATs has an impact on the production of BCHAs; however, amino acid substitution variants of Bat1 and Bat2 that could affect enzymatic properties-and ultimately BCHA productivity-have not been fully studied. By using in silico analysis, we designed variants of Bat1 and Bat2 and expressed them in yeast cells. We found that the engineered BCATs decreased catalytic activities and increased BCHA production. Our approach provides new insight into the functions of BCATs and will be useful in the future construction of enzymes optimized for high-level production of BCHAs.